SEASIDE - Community leaders and friends are mourning the loss of a dedicated community volunteer today.
Tom Ryan, 57, a three-year Seaside resident, died Thursday night after successfully undergoing aorta replacement surgery.
Ryan had moved to Seaside from the Portland area with his wife, Lynne. Although his intent was to retire, he continued to sell insurance and immediately became involved in volunteer efforts.
"He was a real pillar in the community," said Bree Phillips, executive director of the Seaside Downtown Development Association. "He was always kind of in the background, a driving force for projects. He was always willing to lend a hand."
Ryan was treasurer for the Seaside Advertising and Promotions Committee and was active in the SDDA, acting as a chairman for the annual Hot Rod Happenin's golf tournament. He also volunteered at the Seaside Museum, where he recently completed building the base for the museum's new saltmakers display.
"I'll really miss his sense of humor," Museum Curator Mark Tolonen said. "He was absolutely fun-loving. So is his wife. I think that if I had gone on a road trip with the two of them, my face would have just hurt from smiling so much."
Mayor Don Larson remembers Ryan as a man who was "everybody's friend."
"He really fit in beautifully and enjoyed being active," Larson said. "He was such a positive individual who really wanted to do what's best for the city."
Gary Diebolt, who worked with Ryan on the Seaside Advertising and Promotions Committee, said he admired the fact that Ryan seemed to know his limitations.
"He knew he could only give his all to a few groups, rather than spreading himself out," Diebolt said. "When he committed, he committed 100 percent of himself. Rather than try to knock down a forest in one day, he saw the individual trees and tackled one at a time."
Diebolt and Phillips also appreciated the fact that Ryan brought an "outsider's view" to Seaside.
"He had lots of insight and wisdom, and he was able to take a step back and really make informative decisions," Phillips said. "It was good to have someone with different views."
Friend, fellow-SDDA member and city councilor Diana Schafer said she was initially amazed by the community enthusiasm displayed by such a new resident.
"He made his volunteerism very felt and it's a real loss," she said. "He just got caught up in looking around and finding things that he wanted to do."
SDDA members are still reeling from the second loss in less than a year. On May 16, SDDA lost its much-loved former executive director, Dolna Mespelt-Myers, who died following a heart attack.
"It's tough and hard to handle," Phillips said. "We just have to pick up the pieces and move on. That's what both of them would want. He (Ryan) was just a vibrant person with a gentle soul."
He had two sons, Chris and Rob Ryan, and three grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life/Irish wake is 1 p.m. Saturday at McMenamins Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave. in Forest Grove.